The New Windows 8

April 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Hello!  Hoping you had a good spring break.  After reading the last post about innovations in tablets, smartphones, and related applications, I remembered trying out Windows 8, and how different it seemed at first from Windows 7.  It’s in the beta stage of development at the moment, but a friend showed me an early and free consumer preview version that he had been playing around with.

New features in the Windows 8 operating system (or OS) include compatibility with a wider range of hardware, “Windows To Go” which enhances portability, the Windows Store, and a brand-new interface.  Other important capabilities include cloud server connectivity and the use of Kinect sensors to work with webcams.

Windows 8 is the first edition of Windows that can be run on ARM-based tablets, as well as the traditional x86 PCs (in addition, of course, to x64 and x32 PCs).  ARM-based chips are frequently used in tablets and smartphones because they’re generally more energy-efficient.  However, Windows up until now has been designed primarily for Intel chips.  More information on this type of tablet can be found here , if you’re interested.  The idea is to have the system work efficiently and effectively on a very wide range of devices to suit the needs of different users.  It’s especially important because a large number of people seem to be moving away from desktop computers and toward more portable devices like tablets and phones.

“Windows To Go,” in essence, allows the operating system to boot from a USB device (called a “Live USB”) with the user’s programs, settings, and files.  Employees can thus use their managed devices whether working at home, in a different office, or in a free seating environment with other employees.  It adds flexibility, being able to run one’s personal system by using any computer with Windows 7 or Windows 8 capability.

The Windows App store, similar to the Mac App store, enables users to download apps of their choosing and developers to post apps that they’ve made.  In the video on the page (under the heading “Windows Store”) a presenter explains that one of the top priorities of their app store is to make it easy to locate apps without excessive filtering of search results.

When I had tried to use Windows 8, the very first thing I noticed was that a lot of changes had been made to the interface; it’s distinctly different from previous versions of Windows that I’ve used.  The article says that the user interface (or UI) has been almost completely redesigned to a “Metro-style” design, to offer simplicity and fluid interaction.  You can see a video preview showing some of the aspects of the new interface here.  Some of the main differences can be seen in the logon screen, the start screen, the control panel, the task manager, and the interface for playing videos.  For example, to logon, one doesn’t enter a password, but taps the correct areas of the screen in order to gain access.  The start screen, different from the traditional desktop, groups all applications together and allows for new apps to be dragged and dropped in.

Other improvements include better security, faster booting, faster navigation through files thanks to the new Protogon file system, and minimal use of random access memory (less than 300 Mb RAM).  Windows 8 will also make use of cloud computing by being tied to Windows SkyDrive; in this way, users can access their data “in the cloud” via Windows 8 on many different devices.  Prototypes supporting Kinect also exist; if the price of the needed sensors becomes low enough, it may even become a standard feature in the near future.  These last two improvements aren’t new in themselves, but provide an interesting synthesis between commonly used technologies.

Windows 8’s exact release date is unknown, but it’s expected to come out in middle or late 2012.  The original article can be seen at TheTechBlogs.com.

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